SUMMER TRAVEL TIPS | By Grainne Kelly
Whether local or overseas, sightseeing can be one of the greatest pleasures of most any trip. Sightseeing with little kids? Not unless you’re prepared! Read on for tips on how to get ready for a trip that the whole family will remember.
Getting Ready for the Trip
Half the battle in ensuring a fun trip is the planning. A lot of the stress that you might encounter can be avoided if you’ve taken the time to plan. It’s not necessary to have a minute by minute itinerary in place, but you do need to have some sort of strategy to ensure that you’re covered for contingencies and “emergencies.” Understand that emergencies, when dealing with little kids, can be everything from a lost stuffed bear to a hunger meltdown to an actual medical emergency. Like the Scouts say, it’s best to be prepared.
Have a plan B for most outings. Figure out what you will do if the weather isn’t cooperating for the outdoor hike that you had planned. What if someone in the group gets sick? How will you deal with that? Be realistic in your planning. A four-year-old is not going to happily skip along in the Louvre Museum for six hours. It’s just not going to happen. If it’s your biggest dream to visit Graceland and pay quiet homage to the King, you might want to plan a side trip while Grandma stays with the kids at the hotel pool.
One way to get a little more buy-in from the kids is – assuming they’re old enough – involve them in the planning of the trip. Looking over maps, reviewing tour guides and checking out locations on the Internet are all interactive ways to get them to see your trip as an adventure! Let them pick out some of the sights that you will be seeing. It’s a good lesson in cooperation.
However you are traveling to get to your destination, sightseeing usually involves some sort of motor vehicle: a private car or a group bus. Whichever you opt for, having the right equipment with you is essential.
Snacks, drinks and distractions are important. A bag of juice boxes, healthy snacks and a few toys from the dollar store to be handed out at well-timed intervals can make any trip easier. And, don’t feel bad about giving in to tech when the coloring books get boring. A movie on the tablet will give everyone the “time out” they need.
Timing Is Everything
Pulling into a national park to see a gueyser an hour before dinner time? Perhaps not. The ideal situation is to try and time visits to sights when the kids are relatively well rested and in a good mood. Dragging a cranky, overtired, hungry child anywhere is not anyone’s idea of a good time.
If you need to drive some distance to get to various places and your kids are still nappers, coordinating the driving with nap time will help give everyone a little peace. Make sure to pack something they like to sleep with to encourage the nap!
See the Sights in Small Chunks
Kids have a limited attention span, particularly if they’re not really interested in whatever it is you are going to see. An overpacked itinerary will stress everyone out. Break up the day with different activities so that it doesn’t feel like one long slog through three different museums. Add in a little shopping trip at a candy store or lunch at a fun restaurant instead of trying to rush through every sight.
When all else fails, a little bribery might be the order of the day. Incentivize good behavior by reminding the kids that being patient throughout the day will win them an extra 30 minutes at the pool at the end of the afternoon.
Give the Kids a Role to Play
With older kids, you can ask them to be the official trip photographers. Point and shoot cameras are relatively inexpensive these days and can provide ample opportunity for the kids to document their trip to share with their friends or classmates when they get home.
Another idea is to designate them as the official map readers, even if the GPS is really doing most of the work. Kids love to be in charge, even if it’s only in their own minds!
Roll With It
In the end, if you are calm and collected, the kids will be calmer too. The trip is supposed to be fun, not a military exercise, so be prepared to roll with the punches and change up your plans. If a certain location isn’t working out because everyone is tired or hungry, it’s time to leave and go play in a park for a while. Remember to have fun! You’re making memories to last a lifetime.
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